Eleven years, 11 months and 26 days. Ask Russell Giberson how long he served and he’ll reel off that number without hesitation.
Gloucester County Office of Veterans Affairs (VA) honored Giberson, 63, a former Army cook during the Vietnam War, for his time served with the Gloucester County Military Service medal at his home in Pitman on Wednesday afternoon.
“Being a veteran myself, there is no greater honor than to award one of my peers,” said Duane Sarmiento, director of Veterans Affairs for Gloucester County. “I really take this to heart. Awarding them is something I take pride in. The joy in itself is very fulfilling.”
The ceremony was organized by Samaritan Healthcare and Hospice, who provide care to Giberson, in conjunction with the Gloucester County VA after Giberson’s caretakers took it upon themselves to have him recognized for his lengthy stint with our nation’s military.
“Hearing Mr. Giberson was a veteran I wanted to make sure he received recognition for his service,” said Tracy Bishop, a social worker with Samaritan Hospice and Healthcare. “My father was a Vietnam War veteran so I was taught to love our country and be proud of our men and women who are willing to go to war.”
While Giberson, who is missing a leg and confined to a wheelchair, is described by his nurses as normally being calm and collected he was admittedly excited to be honored.
“They first asked me about it and I just thought ‘Sure,'” said Giberson. “Now, I think it feels great. I understand there is a lot out there who probably deserve it way more than I do, but I think it’s great what they did for me.”
In addition to his medal, Giberson also received a certificate and pin laden with the Gloucester County colors as part of the ceremony. Samaritan Healthcare and Hospice also presented Giberson with a special blanket in recognition of the occasion.
“He’s strong, humble, sensitive, very personable,” said Barbara Ridinger, his primary nurse. I’m happy that we were able to help do this. Everyone who makes the choice to enlist in the armed services deserves honor.”
The Gloucester County Office of Veterans Affairs awards Military Service medals to all former service members in the area that have been honorably discharged if requested. In the past, the Office of Veterans Affairs has held larger group ceremonies to honor veterans as well as honoring some posthumously.
Information on how to request a service medal can be found on GloucesterCountyNJ.gov.